Witnessing this spectacle is on many safari to-do lists, but what makes The Great Migration so great?
The Great Migration is BIG
The majority of the migration is made up of wildebeest, the largest of all antelopes. As part of Africa’s Ugly Five, the wildebeest might not win a spot in a beauty contest but they are the leading stars of the greatest natural show on earth.
The Great Migration is the movement of great herds of wildebeest and zebra across the plains of the Serengeti in search of food and water. And it is a BIG deal. It is estimated that over 1.5 million wildebeest, along with 200,000 zebras and a host of other antelope, take part in the migration across the Serengeti in Tanzania and across the border, into the Masai Mara in Kenya.
The Great Migration Covers Vast Distances
The expression “the grass is always greener on the other side” seems to be the motto of wildebeest. Being herbivores, they only survive by eating vegetation. Therefore, the wildebeest must move around like gypsies in the constant search for succulent green grass to feast on.
They start their 800km grazing circle in the Serengeti, feeding on the fresh, nutritious grasses in the plains there. The Serengeti boasts the oldest eco-system on the planet with a diversity of plants and animals that is unavailable anywhere else on the globe. It’s a happy place for all that thrive there.
When the rains end the herds head west on their journey, following the rivers on their way to the Masai Mara in Kenya. This is where all the action takes place. The wildebeest need to put on the performance of their lives as they attempt the dangerous river crossings into the Masai Mara. Hungry crocodiles lie and wait just to get a ‘bite’ of the action.
A recent Great Migration river crossing was witnessed by Cottars 1920 ‘s Safari Camp’s head guide and manager, Douglas, which he captured on video:
The Incredible River Crossings
This is definitely the part of the Great Migration show for which you want front row tickets. All the action happens in the crocodile-infested waters. One of the best seats in the house is at Sentinel Mara Camp as it is situated right on the banks of the Mara river.
Crocodiles lie waiting in the Mara River, and as soon as they catch their prey they drown it, clutching the animal in their strong jaws and pulling it under water. It is a true spectacle that will surely add to some great safari memories. However, be warned, it is definitely not for the “softies” as the Great Migration truly shows what ‘the circle of life’ is all about.
During the migration, around 250,000 wildebeest fall victim to predators, thirst, hunger, and exhaustion, but recent studies show that it is not in vain and their demise contributes to the balance of the rivers’ ecosystem. The study found that the thousands of corpses contribute the equivalent of more than 1,000 tons of biomass that can feed the Serengeti.
The Great Migration is a Multi-Species Event
The co-actors in this show are the zebras. There is a natural friendship between wildebeest and zebra and they happily co-exist. Zebra eat the longer grasses allowing wildebeest the opportunity to snack on the shorter grasses which they prefer. Zebras also have a very good memory which comes in handy when remembering the course of the migration from past seasons. They are also good predator spotters and will warn wildebeest if a hungry river predator is seen.
Water is vital in the story of the migration, which is where the wildebeest help the zebra. They have an incredible sense of smell and can sniff out the water which their combined herds need to journey towards, contributing their share to this friendship.
Experiencing the Great Migration
It is important to take note that the Great Migration is an ongoing event as the herds travel on a circular grazing path. If you want to be in the middle of all the action, have a look at the location of lodges. The closer they are to a river, the higher your chances are of experiencing a great show. Lodges to consider are Sand River Lodge on the banks of a river in the Masai Mara National Reserve, close to the Tanzanian border, as well as Serian Camp, which is in the direct path of the Great Migration.
If you would like the “traditional” migration experience with exclusive privacy then consider a stay at Cottar’s 1920’s Camp. The highly qualified guides will ensure you see all the Migration action without being interrupted by crowds.
Visiting the right area in the right season will treat travellers to astonishing sightings of this natural phenomenon. Don’t miss out, book your tickets to this spectacular wildlife show today!